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How to ensure your heirs survive during the winding up of the estate after you are gone

In this blog post, we will explain how to ensure your heirs survive during the winding up of the estate after you are gone. In our experience, huge problems arise if and when insufficient bridging finance is made available by benefactors to the heirs to help them come through the period during which the benefactor’s will is being processed and wound up.

Delays in the winding up of the estate

How to ensure your heirs survive during the winding up of the estateThis often happens because they simply do not understand the estate process and, in particular, they do not realize how long it can take. Even a well prepared will can need five months to be processed and a will with ambiguities or conflicting instructions (we do come across a fair number of this type) might take a year or more to be wound up.

The delays in the process are often flawed because they are often blamed on the attorneys when in reality it is the time taken to finalise investment and other accounts (all of which are frozen the moment the investor dies) and the huge delays and consequent backlogs experienced at the Master of the Supreme Court’s office that cause the delays on will processing.

Regrettably, even registered post to the Master of the Supreme Court’s office goes missing  and so do certain of the files which are lodged with him.

How to ensure your heirs survive during the winding up of the estate

We recommend that benefactors transfer certain sums of money or investment streams to their spouses/heirs before they die and, in addition, they should take out a life insurance policy on themselves payable to their beneficiaries. Such policies are usually paid out within a number of weeks of the death certificate being issued and therefore are very helpful. Where the surviving spouse/heirs suffer economic hardship, it is often possible to apply to the Master of the Supreme Court for maintenance payments. These too, however, can take time to come through.

What is more, it is in our view definitely not wise to appoint a family member as a sole executor, especially if he or she is one of the heirs to the estate. In these cases the executor’s motives will very often be suspect and it is likely that any decisions they make will be questioned, nor will they in most cases know how to take the winding up process forward. To appoint a lawyer at least as a co-executor has, therefore, much to recommend it.

In most cases, attorneys will genuinely earn the 3,5% fee that they levy on an estate, but it is wise to appoint an attorney as a co-executor because people without legal knowledge can and do get into serious difficulties.

If you need any help in this area, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@gunstons.com.

Images courtesy of Grant Cochrane at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Saneli Ngcobo

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